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A Worldpress.org Special Report

Coin of Confusion: Enter the Euro

On Jan. 1, 2002, the world will witness the largest money-changing operation in its history. An event of this magnitude cannot but cause some anxiety. If everything goes well, on Jan. 1, almost 300 million people in the 12 participating countries will wake up to find their bank accounts have been automatically converted into euros. Millions of businesses will need to convert their prices and overhaul their computer accounting systems.

Commentators in the eurozone have met the impending change with worry. Some are concerned about the opportunities the unfamiliar notes will provide to forgers. Others have worried about price-gouging as shoppers try to adjust to the new system. But European commentators have also greeted the introduction of a common European currency with humor and hope that the change will help further unite the people who live within the European Union.

In a Worldpress.org special report, we look at how newspapers around the world, but especially within the countries adopting the euro, are greeting the introduction of the new monetary order.

PARIS Le Monde (liberal), Oct. 30: “Meant to strengthen Europeans' sense of belonging to a common community, the euro constitutes realization of the dreams of founding fathers who, shortly after the World War II, saw in the unification of Europe as the only way to avoid new conflicts.”

FRANKFURT Franfurter Allegemeine Zeitung (conservative) June 6: “And just as the enthusiasm of Europe's founding fathers has long been swamped by the laborious and protracted juggling of European interests and the daily grind of the Brussels bureaucracy, the new currency has stopped inspiring excitement. Most Germans will continue to ask why a crucial element of German postwar identity—the deutsche mark—has to disappear now.”
Jürgen Jeske

MADRID El Mundo (centrist) Sept. 4: “We project on to the euro…a vague anguish that we feel toward globalization: the fear of uniformity that cancels our individual diversity. Today a process that evokes the great transformation that took place in Greece in 500 B.C., with the onslaught of the polis, the city-state, and the disappearance of the old tribal and family communities, is being achieved. To that crisis, which was purely progressive, Greek civilization—as Beniamino Andreatta pointed out—responded with tragedy, and simultaneously mournful and enlightening stories of Oedipus and Antigone.”
Claudio Magris

ATHENS Kathimerini (conservative) Oct. 17: “Greece's adoption of the physical euro will have major implications for a country that has traditionally relied more heavily on cash transactions than has most of Europe….which implies that the actual physical changeover will have at least as much impact in Greece as elsewhere. And an awkward exchange parity (340.75 drachmas to the euro) will not exactly set people's minds to rest as they pore over conversion charts to see what a chunk of feta will cost under the new regime.”
—John Ross

CORK Irish Examiner (centrist), Oct. 1: “Today marks the first day of the last quarter leading up to euro day. In preparation for that day much will change. Prices will be adjusted. Inevitably, some will try and capitalise on the opportunity to make more profit. Greater vigilance will be required in the coming months if the gougers are not to succeed.”

LONDON The Guardian (liberal), Sept. 5: “The economic argument that most directly touches people's lives—and is perhaps therefore the most important—is about prices. The electorate do not believe that merely comparing prices in the same currency will provide them with a better deal, but they do think that joining the euro would mean more competition. And more competition will bring lower prices and higher living standards. In this, they are quite right.”
—Christopher Huhne

Articles:

Who's in the Twilight Zone?
Despite having declined to sign up, Britain features on the map of Europe that adorns the euro banknotes; so do Switzerland, Denmark, Serbia, and Russia. Perhaps the map signals a statement of expansionist intent. The Observer's Faisal Islam reports on the other countries—in Europe and across the world—that may, or may not adopt the euro.

Dutch Euros Snatched as Forgers Get to Work on New Currency
Europe's countdown to a single currency has hit a new snag with the first big theft of euros in the Netherlands, just six weeks before billions of new banknotes and coins go into circulation, reports Ian Black in London's liberal Guardian newspaper.

Criminals Rush for Euros
The police are faced with the extraordinary task of tracking large amounts of illicit funds during the changeover to the common European currency, the euro, reports Helsinki's centrist Helsingin Sanomat newspaper.

British Warming to the Euro
"Whether or not the British like it," reports Milan's centrist Panorama newsmagazine, some big distribution chains have decided to accept euros as ready money."

New Currency May Change More than Prices
Ciaran Brennan, writing for centrist Dublin newspaper The Irish Times, takes a humorous look at some of less-discussed ways the euro is likely to change life.

Designing the Euros
How does one design a currency when “no portraits of historical figures or designs attributed to any particular monument in any single country” are allowed? Denis Fitzgerald reports.

"The Little People Are Always the Ones Who Suffer"
Thomas Faltin, of Stuttgart, Germany's Stuttgarter Zeitung, visits residents at a local retirement home to get their reactions to the coming of the new currency.

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